THE recent Living History Day in Royal Wootton Bassett was the second organised by Mark Collins.

“The first was in 2015,” he said. “That was for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, so it was a Medieval one, which went down very well.

“I’d been wanting to do another one ever since, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it - it’s the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and it’s the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.’

“I wanted to do an event to mark those occasions, so I thought I would do something based on the First and Second World Wars, and then I thought, ‘I’ve got to include the Korean War as well, because nobody ever does.’

“I often get Korean War veterans coming into the shop. We mount their medals for them and I often chat with them. They just do not get the recognition they deserve.”

The Korean War is sometimes referred to as The Forgotten War, as many people fail to realise that Britain fought alongside the USA in the conflict.

In fact, some of the bloodiest and most courageously-fought battles of the war involved British troops, such as the stand by a heavily-outnumbered regiment of the Gloucestershire Regiment - The Glosters - during the Battle of the Imjin River in April of 1951.

During the Living History Day, Mark was especially moved when a Korean War veteran thanked him and presented him with a South Korean flag. He plans to display it in the shop.

He is a great believer in the value of military history and history in general.

“There are a number of reasons. It is important to learn about the sacrifices of people in years gone by, and it’s also important to remember history because if you keep history alive, then you are less likely to make the same mistakes again.”

Mark believes strongly in the old adage about people who forget history being doomed to repeat it - and that bringing history alive is a vital way of presenting it.

Many of the people who attended the Living History Day agreed.

“My favourite aspect was the nostalgia that I was seeing in the eyes of veterans, especially the Korean War veterans. They’d be looking at the Jeeps and saying , ‘Oh we used to use those.’ You could see it was all coming back to them.

“From the military point of view, another reason I wanted to do this was because I’d lost a member of my family in the first Gulf War, and then when I moved my business to Wootton Bassett and the repatriations were coming through the town, I’d relive that day every single time there was a repatriation

“Every local business owner would close their business while that was taking place, and stand out in the street and pay their respects.”

He was also impressed by the help and offers of help he received before and during the Living History Day.

“There were a lot of people that gave up their free time and went to the trouble of bringing their vehicles down for the day, to make the day possible. They’re amazing people – not only very nice but very knowledgeable.

“Other members of the community came together as well.”

Mark is from Swindon. After leaving Churchfields School, he went into retail management before joining the RAF.

After his military career he moved into tailoring - something of a family tradition which dates back at least as far as a great grandfather who worked in the profession in Aberdeen.

He has been based in Royal Wooton Bassett since 2010. While part of his work is general bespoke tailoring, he also creates period costume from as early as the Saxon period right through to the modern era.

His clients range from re-enactment groups to TV and film production companies looking for authentic dress - especially military uniforms, of which he currently has 450 available.

Some of his customers are service personnel who need uniforms altered.

One of the things he likes about being in Royal Wooton Bassett is that businesses have a tradition of doing their bit for the community.

“I think it’s very important. I think that being in this town is a bit of an inspiration to want to do that sort of thing.

“Every year, for instance, Crump’s butchers across the road get a brass band to play on Christmas Eve outside their shop. It gives so much to the atmosphere of the town.

“Hazel Newson from Dandelion [the gift shop], as well as being involved in the retailers’ association and making sure that everybody in the town has up-to-date information on the latest goings-on, and as well as running a very busy business, will also take time to plant poppy seeds around the trees on the High Street and get other people to do that as well.

“When you see people doing things like that, it’s real inspiration to do something yourself, and whenever I want to lay on an event such as the one we’ve just done, people like Hazel are there to help and who liaise with the council – who are brilliant.

“There are other people in the town who organise charity events and things like that. It’s very inspiring when you see people do that.”